Why Is My Chimney Pulling Away From My House?

Like many homeowners with a fireplace in San Diego County, you undoubtedly see your chimney at least twice a day while pulling in and out of your driveway to drop the kids off at school, shopping, or going to work. But today is different. Is my chimney really leaning? Hoping it is just a figment of your imagination; a closer look confirms that the stack really is pulling away from your house! This can be a cause for concern. Read on to learn more about why this may be happening and what steps you should take.

Causes of a Leaning Chimney

Several culprits can cause your chimney to tilt. Here are the most common reasons in the San Diego area:

Foundation Issues

The most frequent reason a chimney pulls away from the house is a foundation issue, such as house settling, water damage, and even subpar construction. 

  • House Settling: All houses settle over time. While normal settling shouldn't cause a significant shift in the stack, uneven settling from poor soil compaction or expansion can add stress to the chimney's footing.
  • Water Damage: Another common cause is improper drainage around the foundation. It can lead to soil erosion, weakening the support of your chimney. Leaky gutters or downspouts aimed directly at the foundation are also common causes.

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  • Poor Construction: In some older homes, the footing of the chimney might not be strong enough to handle the structure's weight. A masonry chimney can weigh several tons, and if the support is inadequate, it can cause it to sink into the ground. This can result in the chimney separating from your house, which can be a severe safety hazard.

Masonry Damage

Decaying mortar, spalling or missing bricks, and even earthquakes can cause masonry damage, eventually leading to your chimney tilting.

  • Decaying Mortar: Constant exposure to rain, wind, and even snowfall (in some areas) can deteriorate the mortar joints, compromising the chimney’s structural integrity. Homes in higher elevations near Mt. Laguna, Palomar Mountain, and Rincon, CA, are at greater risk.
  • Missing or Damaged Bricks: Loose or missing bricks can destabilize the stack, ultimately causing it to tilt.
  • Seismic Activity: While less common in San Diego, earthquakes can shift your foundation and cause a chimney to lean.

What Should I Do?

If you notice that your chimney is leaning, it is a concern that should not be neglected or ignored. It can lead to a complete or partial collapse without immediate action to inspect and repair the issue. It can also cause significant damage to your home. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Stop Using the Fireplace: Using a structurally compromised chimney is a fire hazard. Cease all fireplace activity until it passes inspection.
  2. Call a Certified Chimney Sweep: Hire a licensed and fully certified chimney sweep, like Chimney Sweeps Inc., to assess the severity of the lean and determine the underlying cause. They can recommend the appropriate repairs. 
  3. Make Repairs: Masonry repairs, chimney rebuilding, and foundation repairs may be necessary to restore the structure.

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Chimney Sweeps, Inc. Can Fix Your Leaning Chimney

We have inspected and repaired over 40,000 chimneys so far! If you face issues with a leaning chimney, please call Chimney Sweeps, Inc. at 619-593-4020 or complete our contact form. Our specialists proudly serve the greater San Diego region, including Claremont, La Jolla, Mission Valley, and Pacific Beach. We'll inspect the damage and provide a written estimate for the necessary repairs to ensure you can enjoy your wood-burning fireplace again.

Chimney Masonry Damage?

Chimney Sweeps Inc is here to help! Our team of chimney experts can help save your damaged chimney masonry. Give us a call today.

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